The Gruen Effect + Brief Thoughts on Retail Relationships

What is the relationship between a commercial space and the consumer? The American pastime of wondering late night department stores; an ongoing surreal relationship between a commercial entity’s physical manifestation and the passive consumer, a cultural element encapsulated in the vaporwave school of art.

In a recent review of Maroon 5’s Jordi, music critic Jensen Ooi shares disdain towards commercial radio’s proclivity for any band once deemed successful. “You’ll get to listen to it when you’re forced to listen to it when it comes on in any public space…”

It’s true, in a way. The best of errands usually have an underlying lack of forced exposure. I know, I know. It’s hard to believe that something as flawless as top 40 radio and commercially branded playlists would fall to the subjectivity of music like the Roman Empire to the Barbarians (/s), but it’s true.

Bombarded by the unsocial of social media at nearly all times, further forced exposure brings us all a step closer towards going postal.

What happens when the lure of commercial pleasantries becomes a red-card in the ‘company to consumer’ relationship? It’s a dynamic based entirely in underlying desires and manipulation, albeit manipulation we’ve come to accept as a function of life. A commercial entity depends on luring in consumers to a passive state of comfort and excitability over products (think ‘homeyness,’ music, food courts, etc.). But a lasso of amenities can quickly become a noose of aggravation.

So how do we design the sonic landscape of commercial entities in a mutually beneficial way? Companies have sunk more money into this than I could ever imagine (though, perhaps not including the consumers’ benefits).

Twenty Thousand Hertz, an audio podcast about audio, explores these topics in their episode “Muzak,” written and produced by Carolyn McCulley.


You can listen to the episode here:


Make sure to check out Jensen Ooi’s work over at Turntable Thoughts, a blog with “a Malaysian-focus on music worldwide.”

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